Sunday, 6 February 2011

World Book Night

Lots of fun things happening in February and March. The Lit scene is alive and thriving in Glasgow as shown in my other blog Liz Lochead our own Glasgow poet has been made the 'Makar' or Poet Laureate for Scotland. Her poetry is alive with vigorous speech idioms; collections include True Confessions and New Clich├ęs (1985), Bagpipe Muzak (1991) and Dreaming Frankenstein: and Collected Poems (1984). Here's is one of her poems:

The moment she died, my mother's dance dresses
turned from the colours they really were
to the colours I imagined them to be.
I can feel the weight of bumptoed silver shoes
swinging from their anklestraps as she swaggers
up the path towards her Dad, light-headed
from airman's kisses. Here, at what I'll have to learn
to call my father's house , yes every duster prints her
even more vivid than an Ilford snapshot on some seafront
in a white cardigan and that exact frock.
Old lipsticks. Liquid Stockings.
Labels like Harella, Gor-ray, Berketex.
And, as I manhandle whole outfits into binbags for Oxfam,
every mote in my eye is a utility mark
and this is useful:
the sadness of dispossessed dresses,
the decency of good coats roundshouldered
in the darkness of wardrobes,
the gravitas of lapels,
the invisible danders of skin fizzing off from them
like all that life will not neatly end.

So accessible and touching. Its wonderful to have two females poet Laureates in Britain today.
My classes are challenging and enjoyable. The works of Naipaul this week an indepth look at his work, 'Enigma of Arrival' a sad, melancholic book with prose that is so lucid and perfect. A contrast after the lyrical, ironic and meditative poems of Szymborska which sparkled with her own comedic touches. The other class I am attending 'Scotland and the Empire' is very informative. Tasmania populated by some Scots who were the victims of the Highland Clearances. They committed the same atrocities that were done to them by carrying out the near-genocide of the Aboriginees. This is contrasted with the wonderful work of other hard working Scots like Lauchlan Mc Quarrie still referred to as the 'Father of Australia.' Many had made their fortunes in India moved to Australia and took over huge tracts of land for grazing their sheep.It reminds me of Elihu Yale, the founder of the famous university who donated a huge amount of his ill-gotten gains to fund the university.

I quote: 'He was a fervid Anglican who served in the British East India Company between 1670 and 1699 and was governor of FortSt. George at Madras from 1687 to 1692 As governor of Fort St. George, Yale purchased territory for private purposes
with East India Company funds, including a fort at Tevnapatam (present-day
Cuddalore). He imposed steep taxation towards the upkeep of the colonial
garrison and town. His punitive measures against Indians who defaulted included
threats of property confiscation and forced exile. This spurred various Indian
revolts, which were ruthlessly quelled by Company soldiers. Yale was also
notorious for arresting and trying Indians on his own private authority,
including the hanging of a stable boy who had absconded with a Company horse.

More audaciously, Yale amassed a private fortune through secret contracts with
Madras merchants, against the East India Company's directives. This imperial
plunder, which enabled his patronage of the American university, occurred
through his monopolisation of traders and castes in the textiles and jewel
trade. By 1692, Elihu Yale's repeated flouting of East India Company
regulations, and growing embarrassment at his illegal profiteering resulted in
his being relieved of the post of governor.'

Today the Ivy League University flourishes. History opens my eyes to so many past events that I only had a vague understanding of.

March 5th and I am one of the 20,000 bookgivers on 'World Book Night!' The largesse of 48 copies of Adichie's 'Half of a Yellow Sun' will be given to people who are passionate about reading.And 'Aye Write' Glasgow's own Book Fest is on March 4th to 11th with a wonderful line up of authors.


Lotus Reads said...

Oh, Leela, what a busy and fun time you seem to be having! Thanks for taking a minute to stop here to tell us all that you are up to. Now,when I pick up my first Naipaul, I know who I can come to for help/clarification. I've always been nervous about Naipaul, I have heard people say that aside from his travelogues, he can be very difficult to read.

"Scotland and the Empire" sounds like another very interesting class...I certainly didn't know that the founder of Yale made his fortune through the plunder of India! Enjoy, Leela! Will be thinking about on you on 05th March when you give those lovely Adiche books away to all those deserving readers.

Leela Soma said...

Naipaul is one of the finest writers . His style is superb. As a human being though I think he's not a pleasant person and some of that bitterness comes out in his writing. 'Engima of Arrival' is a great introduction to his prolific 'oevre' as it is autobiographical too. It takes us on his journey, his struggle to become a writer and a mental breakdown he suffered. He is not happy in his own skin and some people who have problems with their own identity suffer all their lives and he's one of those unfortunate ones. He hates himself and it comes out as arrogance, meanness and I feel sorry that such a wonderful intellect is coloured by such angst.I'd urge you to read him.

Yale and his Madras connection and many colonial stories have been recorded but not been highlighted in India so it is a revelation to us.
Yes, I'm looking forward to giving away Adichie's fab book.Thanks for your comment Angie

Lotus Reads said...

"He is not happy in his own skin and some people who have problems with their own identity suffer all their lives and he's one of those unfortunate ones."

Wow, Leela, that is some revelation. Like you also said, how very sad that intellect like his should be masked by so much angst. I shall definitely attempt something by him. If I remember correctly, Patrick French wrote a biography on Naipaul, which made Naipaul very unhappy...I should go and look up some of the reviews.

Leela Soma said...

You should try one of his books Angie, you'll marvel at his writing style. Maybe slightly happier ones 'Miguel Street' or House of Mr. Biswas'.

Zoe said...

Lucky you to be one of the bookgivers! As to Scottish poets my favourite is the late and very great Edwin Morgan. I read one of his poems at my wedding and always enjoy going back to his work.

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